Closing the Hazardous Waste Loophole

A.2655 (Englebright, et al.)/S.3392 (May, et al.)

Under New York State law and regulations, the oil and gas industry is explicitly exempt from hazardous waste transportation and disposal laws, even though a great deal of the wastewater and drill cuttings generated by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” meets regulatory standards for hazardous waste. Because of this loophole in our hazardous waste law and regulation, the wastes are disposed of improperly, in municipal wastewater treatment plants and at municipal landfills, creating a risk to ground and surface waters as well as community health. Despite the fact that New York banned high volume fracking, fracking wastes remain a problem because New York still accepts fracking waste for disposal from other states, and continues to permit low volume fracking operations whose wastes may also qualify as hazardous. 

Carcinogenic benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde are common toxic frack fluid ingredients injected into the ground as part o the fracking process and the wastewater returning up the well also contains naturally occurring salts, heavy metals and radioactive particles. These contaminants also can be found in the drill cuttings that are brought up before fracking commences. Fracking wastewater that is disposed of in local sewage treatment plants, as is allowed because of the hazardous waste loophole—sometimes with radiation levels hundreds of times the safe limits for drinking water—goes directly into the rivers and streams that supply water to millions of people, without the treatment required under hazardous waste law.

Closing the hazardous waste loophole will mean that fracking waste will be monitored through a manifest system and that extra safeguards will be in place to avoid accidents and ensure proper waste treatment. Such a designation will also keep fracking wastes out of our municipal treatment plants and the waterways that provide our drinking water. Catskill Mountainkeeper supports this bill.

Bill Summary
This bill places directs that all gas drilling waste will be considered hazardous if its chemical constituency meets the definition of hazardous waste in state law.  


For more information, contact Katherine Nadeau at 585.944.4024 or [email protected]


Updated July 21, 2020


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